Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Lebanon, Ohio, completed the purchase of four lots in the 300 block of N. Cherry St. Lebanon. Closing on this property marks a key milestone as the congregation continues community ministry while preparing to rebuild.
A devastating fire critically damaged Bethel AME’s building at 111 N. Cherry St. in December 2017. After initial planning to restore the historically significant structure, the congregation faced a difficult realization that their beloved building was beyond repair. While taking down the building, we saved as many bricks as possible, and put the antique marble date stone in storage. These will be used to memorialize the generations of people for whom the church that stood from 1861 until 2017 was a central feature of spiritual and community life.
Meanwhile, with the understanding that the church resides in the people and is not the building, the congregation has persevered. We currently worship and serve the community from a rented store space at 550 Mound Ct. Suite A. We welcome all to join them for worship any Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m.
While recovering from the fire, Bethel’s members have remained committed to serving the community. In 2018 we responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from the city of Lebanon with a proposal to obtain and develop vacant city-owned land in the Pleasant Square neighborhood near where the original church once stood. This proposal included rebuilding the church in a new location to focus on neighborhood renewal via multi-purpose spaces for worship, life-long learning, co-working and a gym/community center.
Although the property included in today’s purchase is only a portion of the land from the original RFQ, Bethel will use the land acquired in the 300 block of Cherry Street to begin the vision described in the Pleasant Square Development proposal. This work honors the legacy of the long-time neighbors who once occupied the land. The important connection of Bethel AME Church to properties on N. Cherry Street include memories of Wilbur Singleton, Richard Singleton, and Mrs. Bertie Smith, who were lifelong active members of Bethel AME Church. It is believed that other long-time friends of Bethel AME Church, also occupied some of this property over time.
The Singleton Family can trace their membership at Bethel A.M.E. Church back to when the church was first founded. Three generations of Singleton descendants are currently active members at Bethel and are highly involved in the Lebanon community.
Wilbur and Louise Singleton owned property at 321 N. Cherry Street and raised their family of 6 children there. The house was always filled with wonderful aromas from the kitchen where Louise, a self-taught master chef, prepared meals. They entertained a huge extended family of grandchildren almost every weekend. Holidays were extra special. Wilbur worked at Armco, French Bauer Diary, the old Charles Meis Shoe Factory, GHR Foundry in Dayton, and at the Lebanon Museum.
Richard Singleton along with his wife Cora raised their family just three houses away from his Uncle Wilbur at 313 N. Cherry Street. He was a faithful member of Bethel AME Church. The Annual Fish Fry was his fundraiser for the church and he, family and friends would catch all the fish served. The ladies of the church would prepare the side dishes. Richard worked for the US Postal Service in Lebanon as a Postman and he was heavily involved it the Youth Sports Programs in Lebanon.
Miss Bertie Smith lived at 319 N. Cherry Street and was a devoted member of Bethel AME Church. Other members of the Smith family lived at 315 N. Cherry Street and were also members of Bethel AME Church.
As the congregation prepares to rebuild in the neighborhood once occupied by some of their ancestors, we celebrate the opportunity to welcome and work with diverse people in order to develop spiritual, social and physical well-being in the community as a legacy for future generations. Over the next few months we expect to break ground for the initial phase of their rebuilding process.
To learn more, or to become involved in the rebuilding effort, you can leave a message for Bethel AME Church of Lebanon at 513-932-7919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.